Saturday, 27 April 2013

Holistic Health Information: Gluten Intolerance


 I am inspired to address the issue of gluten intolerance and celiac disease this month. There is now evidence that over 35% of Americans are subject to these two conditions. The effects of consuming this protein are far reaching. It is found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, soy-isolated protein, and soy sauce. It is also found as an additive in packaged and prepared foods, disguised as modified starch; in every pain killer as a filler; and many prescription drugs. It is also present oats and corn that have been milled in the same place, or cooked in the same oil as wheat products.

The effect of gluten intolerance goes beyond the inflammatory effects on the digestive tract. It can also inflame your brain, pancreas, liver, bladder, skin, and possibly, any organ in the body. In a study done with gluten intolerant people, an MRI was taken of their brains while still consuming gluten-containing foods. The MRI’s showed extensive plaque throughout their brain tissue, similar to that which is seen in MS patients.

After instructing these patients to undergo a 100% gluten-free diet for 6-8 months, the MRI’s were done again. The images revealed that the plaque had been almost completely eradicated. This is due to the fact that gluten inflames and triggers an aggressive antigenic immune response in the body that is very destructive.

When the inflammatory response goes on for years in the digestive tract, the ultimate consequence is called “leaky gut.” Leaky gut refers to the fact that the intestinal lining has been inflamed for so long that it now has little holes over much of it. This leads to incomplete digestion and absorption of proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

Normally, the small intestine finishes the digestion process, and allows for small nutrient particles to cross the lining and enter the blood stream for distribution throughout the body. When there are holes in the lining, this process is incomplete, and much bigger particles of carbohydrates, proteins and fats cross the lining and enter the blood stream.

When this happens, our white blood cells do not recognize these particles as food, rather they consider them foreign invaders, and start attacking them. Since we are also made of these building blocks, our white blood cells (the immune soldiers of the body) get confused and cannot distinguish between us and these undigested particles, and then attack our tissues. This leads to autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Psoriasis, Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroid disease, etc.

The only definitive way to test for gluten and celiac disease is to do genetic testing through a lab called Entero-Labs. Because the immune system in people that have been exposed to gluten for many years is less than optimal, and the cells that produce antibodies may be compromised, conventional blood and biopsy tests may produce false negative results. I encourage my patients that present with autoimmune symptoms to use this genetic testing.

There is a wonderful website I recommend to all of my gluten-intolerant and celiac patients, that gives multiple resources for finding gluten-free products, restaurants, cooking classes, and educational resources to live a gluten-free lifestyle:

I carry a gluten digestive enzyme formula that can be taken when people are inadvertently exposed to gluten and want to minimize the inflammatory effects.

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